Thursday, July 26, 2018

Help me to get this one

We are often reminded of the importance of allowing the moral foundation of our lives to be rebuilt or "re-formed" by the hand of God, in order to affect the choices that ultimately work to form our reputation. Add to that the attribute of spiritual understanding and you have a recipe for a strong walk. This is definitely more than a personal interpretation of the things contained in the Word of God. It involves all our intellectual faculties for sure, but it also involves the power to discern - to really identify truth from fiction and then to embrace only truth, dismissing all fiction (deception) from our lives.

So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.
(2 Peter 1:5-9)

Discernment is the ability to recognize something for what it is - in other words, it is the application of knowledge (what we know) to what it is we are interpreting. If we are using "natural" discernment, we are relying on the past experiences we have had and what we have amassed in our years of learning (education, exposure to research, etc.) to "interpret" the new information or experience we are encountering. The problem with this type of discernment is that it is limited by our experiences and exposure to things in life. I am limited in my understanding of woodworking, but I have some experiences that tell me some basic tools are necessary. I also understand the truth of measure twice, cut once! These are 'experience' truths - I could learn them from a book, but the more I do a little woodworking here and there, the more I 'experience' the opportunities to relearn these truths.

Spiritual discernment involves the process of taking what we are exposed to and running it through a series of "testing" filters to ensure that we are interpreting it correctly - not solely upon past experience and outcomes. These include the Word of God, the direction of the Holy Spirit, and our own conscience. If what we are interpreting "checks out" through these filters (lines up with the Word, doesn't get us a "check" in our spirit, etc.), we are usually safe to embrace the learning, tackle the project, or pursue the path before us. If it does not, we need to step back and "regroup" with God on the matter. It is that 'regrouping moment' that often saves the heartache and hardship of pursuing an incorrect course with our actions. It is that specific action we often are missing in our walk - taking time to hear what God has to say on the matter.

Discernment involves the ability to distinguish between two or more "criteria" and find the truth in it, know the direction we are to take, etc. As we grow in our understanding of the Word of God, for instance, we find it takes less time to distinguish truth when we are hearing it. The Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance what we have previously studied, allowing it to deny or confirm what it is that we are being exposed to today. When we say someone has a discerning taste for some particular food item, we are acknowledging their ability to appreciate the small nuances contained within each dish. They are able to not only 'taste' the finished product, but they are able to distinguish what has gone into the completion of that product.

Spiritual understanding grows as we are exposed to the things God has given us for our development - the Word, solid teaching, etc. Understanding is never a stagnant thing - it develops over time, constantly being expanded and renewed - and tested. I know that things I had been exposed to in the Word a long time ago can come alive in a new way when I am exposed to those same things today. Why is this? It is simply that I have grown in my understanding by little bits here and there - you, too. We have allowed the Word to affect us - giving us new "filtering" capacity. What we "filtered" one way in the youth of our Christian walk may have a totally different application to us today.

If we are to develop a solid moral foundation, we need our spiritual understanding to be developed. Development is always a process - it is one foot in front of the other - not leaps and bounds. To this small iota of knowledge about how God works we see added another iota of knowledge. This is repeated over and over again, until our knowledge of God's ways of working in our lives is increased. In time, this serves as a basis of "interpreting" how we respond to what circumstances life brings our way.  If we expect to rely solely upon experience to get us through, we will find our discernment is very limited. We need God's guidance added to that experience - this is what will help us develop a solid foundation upon which we move forward. Just sayin!